Since my first memories, I have always loved to read. In elementary school, I was obsessed with Mo Willems’ “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus” series and Beverley Cleary’s “Ramona” series. During my college years, I turned to any dystopian fiction book that was popular that year, including Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” series and Ally’s “Matched” series. Condy. Finally, in high school, I just wanted to read books that talked about my experience going through the highs and lows of adolescence. This is where I started reading more self-contained realistic fiction novels, including John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” and Katie Cotugno’s “How to Love.” While my Lexile level increased with age, the category of books I read remained the same: children’s fiction.
Other categories of fiction, including 19th and early 20th century literature, which were assigned to me in my high school English classes, often did not appeal to me. The same applied to adult fiction, which often featured a 30-year-old protagonist at the height of his career, dealing with a life issue that my high school couldn’t relate to.
Freshman year of college came around and I started worrying about never getting out of the world of young adult fiction. Throughout my six semesters in college, I was often assigned various non-fiction books. Many that I didn’t like for various reasons not limited to their often dense nature. Until a book assigned to me in my 4th semester changed my perspective. The book was titled, “A Surgeon in the Village: An American Doctor Teaches Brain Surgery in Africa”. While the novel itself was interesting, ethically complex, and thrilling, what really appealed to me was how relevant the novel was to me as a public health scholar. I realized that just like my high school hungry for stories I could relate to as an adult, my college wanted to read stories about real-life issues and problem-solving outside of my college microcosm. .
Fast forward to the summer before my senior year of college, I just got back from my semester abroad studying public health and humanitarian responses in Amman, Jordan, and all I wanted to do, it was reading. It was that summer that I leafed through some of the best books I’ve ever read, including David Quammen’s “Spillover,” a science journalist’s perspective on some of the most pertinent concerns concerning zoonotic diseases in the world. As well as “Zoobiquity” by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, which details the links between human and animal health, and “The Perfect Predator” by Steffanie Strathdee, which tells the story of an epidemiologist working to save her husband from the threat of an antibiotic resistant infection.
I’ve learned throughout those few years at college that non-fiction can be compelling, urgent, and relevant to me as a person and to the many issues of the world. Reading nonfiction can help you discover your passions and career aspirations, as well as identify a real-world problem you’d like to help solve one day. Reading non-fiction is also a great way to read about topics that interest you only slightly or that you have no prior knowledge about and want to hear an expert’s opinion or information on a topic. . That’s how I ended up reading a book about mushrooms called “Entangled Life” by Merlin Sheldrake, and another about dinosaurs called “The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs” by Steve Brusatte.
Something I also realized is that liking non-fiction doesn’t mean you have to stop reading or that you’re now “too old” to read young adult or adult fiction. I still like to read a good detective novel or an exciting dystopian novel once in a while. Last summer, between the various investigative sciences I enjoyed, I found time to indulge in Jenny Han’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty” novels in anticipation of the new Amazon Prime TV series. I even read perhaps the strangest but most endearing story about dairy cows called “Meditations with Cows” by Shreve Stockton.
Whether you’re just beginning your journey into the exciting world of non-fiction books or have always enjoyed them, remember that it’s okay to be a kid at heart and read the latest book in your college favorite author. Reading any book, regardless of genre or category, exposes you to new worlds and new perspectives. Now go ahead and lay down on your couch or favorite study spot and open a book.